Genetics is the study of genes,
their functions, and their effects.
Why become a
At the center of scientific advancement
in the 21st century, geneticists are immersed in exciting science, technology, and medical
breakthroughs every day. The opportunities are numerous to contribute to the advancement of science, the care of
patients, and the teaching of the next
generation of genetics professionals. One must be ready to make
a commitment in time, energy, and focus to be a successful
geneticist, but the rewards are enormous. What more exciting and
energizing field could anyone choose?
If you are interested in becoming a
geneticist, regardless of your eventual
career path, you should start by taking
plenty of math and science courses in high
school, especially biology and chemistry.
In college, biology, chemistry, and
biochemistry are popular majors for those
interested in genetics careers. Larger
institutions may offer more specialized
majors such as genetics or molecular
biology. Again, you will need to take
plenty of math and science classes, and do
well in these classes. With your
undergraduate science degree,
many paths in
genetics are open to you!
What is the job demand for geneticists?
the details of the human genome unfold, the
variety of opportunities for people with
degrees and training in human genetics is
continuing to expand. There are
opportunities in basic and clinical
research, in medical professions, and in
interdisciplinary fields, such as patent
law. The genetics workforce is not sufficient even now, and demand continues to increase.
For example, as genetic testing becomes more commonplace, and a part of many routine medical evaluations, more laboratory geneticists will be needed
to perform the tests, and clinicians and
counselors will be needed to interpret and
explain the results to individuals and
families. At the intersection of genetics
and computer science, bioinformaticists are
in high demand to make sense of complex
data. As genetics is recognized to be a basic part of all biological sciences, more and more teachers with expertise in genetics will also be needed.
These are just a few examples of the growing
demand for professions trained in genetics.
What is a typical week like?
geneticist's work week structure and duties
vary greatly depending on their career
field. Geneticists working in fields
such as media, law, public policy, or
education follow the typical work week
schedule of those fields. Research and health professionals have some control over their work schedules,
but often work more than 40 hours every
week. For researchers, experiments may take
many hours to complete, or require lab work several days in a row. In addition to the laboratory and/or field work required to perform the studies, researchers must read the scientific literature, analyze their own data, and prepare manuscripts of their work for scientific journals. Also, most medical research is quite expensive, and researchers are responsible for competing nationally for funding to support their work
by writing successful grant applications. In the case of practicing clinical and laboratory geneticists and genetic counselors, patients come first. That commitment may translate into long days to complete evaluations or follow up, or may include weekend obligations.
What are the salary and benefits?
salaries and fringe benefits vary, depending
on educational background (i.e., highest
degree held) and the position taken, but in
general, people working in genetics are
well-compensated professionals. Geneticists
working in university medical centers or
research institutions would have salaries
and benefits typical of faculty members of
similar rank. For those geneticists choosing
a career in the private sector (e.g., a
biotechnology company), the salary and
benefits might vary according to the
resources of the company.
What skills, abilities, or personality characteristics should a geneticist possess?
geneticists have a basic curiosity and
passion about the genetic basis of health and disease. To be successful at the job, one must have perseverance, patience, and good communication skills.
Geneticists love to learn and are
self-motivated. Students interested in genetics careers should take as much science and math as possible in high school and college.
The American Society of Human Genetics, Incorporated